While many young immigrants and advocates anticipated Hanen ruling against the program (“Hanen has time and time again used his position to try and dismantle progressive immigration policies,” America’s Voice said last year), that knowledge makes the decision no less devastating to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and families who have thrived under the program, which confers two-year work permits and protection from deportation.
The previous administration terminated the policy in 2017, but undocumented youth-led fights led to their momentous victory at the Supreme Court in June 2020. The administration was forced to fully reinstate the program in December 2020, with the new Biden administration in March announcing it would be issuing a new rule to fortify the policy as advocates awaited a ruling from Hanen.
“For a moment, there was like a sheet of light that shined through the dark times—and it was like, ‘OK, things are really going to get better now,'” DACA recipient Frida Adame told CNN. “But then with this ruling, the light that was going through just dimmed and now it’s dark again … We have absolutely no idea of what will happen next and that’s scary.” Her sister is among the tens of thousands of new applicants since December. The family has no clue about what will happen to that application.
Undocumented youth and their allies rallied in Washington, D.C., the weekend following the ruling, urging Democratic lawmakers to pass a pathway to citizenship through the reconciliation process. “This ruling should light a fire under President Biden and Democrats in Congress to act,” UWD member Karla said. The organization’s executive director, Greisa Martinez Rosas, said “the DACA program is in danger and can no longer protect us. We are demanding citizenship through the reconciliation process.”
The upcoming infrastructure and economic development bill is the best chance in years to pass permanent relief for young undocumented immigrants, as well as temporary status holders and undocumented essential workers like farmworkers. While Senate Democrats are seeking to include some relief in that package, eyes are also looking toward the chamber’s parliamentarian. “That’s going to be up to the parliamentarian—what’s in there,” said Nevada U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen. “We’ll leave that to her discretion.”
But as Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter noted in her must-read piece published the morning of Hanen’s ruling, “Memo to Senate Democrats on immigration: The parliamentarian isn’t in charge, you are.” Following Hanen’s ruling, Rosen said “[i]t is critical that we immediately pass immigration reform legislation through any means possible, including the budget reconciliation process. We must take action, and I am ready to fight to get this done.”
Biden said in a statement following the ruling that his administration “intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.” The president also, very notably, endorsed reconciliation in the statement. “I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency,” he said. “It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also specifically called for the use of reconciliation in a tweet supporting young undocumented immigrants. “Should be noted how big of a deal this is,” tweeted UWD’s José Alonso Muñoz. “Earlier this week @PressSec Psaki was noncommittal about reconciliation, saying the WH would leave citizenship to however Congress best thought to move forward. For Biden to use the word ‘reconciliation’ is a major movement victory.”
Passing permanent relief is imperative. Even though Hanen’s decision, at least for now, allows renewals to continue, that guarantees no sense of security for young immigrants. We noted last week how DACA recipient Ju Hong lost his job at a Bay Area county health department after USCIS failed to process his renewal paperwork on time. CNN reports that “though his status has now been renewed, he worries for those who have seen their plans shattered.”
“We need the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress to come through on their promises to deliver citizenship for all, for everyone, so we don’t have to be in this limbo every two years,” he said in the report. “We’re tired of living like this—with this fear, anxiety and stress. I cannot wait any more. Enough is enough.” Have you made a call today to Congress to support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in the reconciliation package? Do that today by clicking here.